Category Archives: Spiritual Exercises

Exercise 40: Mirroring

Background: God knows everything about you.  And God loves you, thoroughly, utterly and irrevocably.  For the duration of today’s practice, please release your feelings and fears about God being angry about who you are or what you have done.  While those feelings may be rooted in reality they will not serve you in this practice, because whatever else God feels toward you, God’s love is not deniable or negotiable.

Today’s practice is inspired by the work of Richard Rohr and others who would have us contemplate God’s loving gaze on every part of us.

In this practice, we will begin by experiencing God’s gaze on our physical body.  We will then experience God’s gaze on our minds, and then in our heart.

After a time of experiencing God gazing down on us, and experiencing ourselves, mirroring this gaze back up on God, we will close by breathing out this accumulated Love on the world around us.

The Practice

1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Breathe deeply, filling and emptying the lungs as completely as possible.

2.  Inhale. With your breath, inhale the reality that God is love.

3.  With your next exhale, exhale the things you fear about what God might think or believe about you.

4.  For as many breaths as you need, feel God’s loving gaze falling on your body.  Perhaps it begins at your feet and works its way up.  Let God’s gaze stop in places you feel sore, tight, or hurt.

5.  For 3 more breaths, feel God’s loving gaze on the whole of your physical body.

6.  Now, experience God’s gaze on your mind.  Let it begin on your thoughts and beliefs.  Perhaps you will feel this as God’s view resting deeply within your head.

7.  God’s gaze also lands on your memories.  It is a loving and healing gaze.  As you continue to breathe deeply, feel God’s watching fix some of the brokenness of your past.

8.  God’s gaze will come down to your feelings.  Perhaps you will experience God’s gaze on your physical heart as God lovingly beholds the contents of your feelings.

9.  Continuing to breathe deeply, for 3 breaths, let God take in the whole of your brain and your heart.  Feel loved and healed.

10.  As you continue these deep inhales, see that God beholds you.  All of you.  In every moment.  As he is watching you, the whole of, watch God.  You have become a sort-of mirror, reflecting that loving gaze back up to God.

11.  Luxuriate in this.  Take as long as you would like.  Continue to be present to deep breaths.

12.  Just as a mirror turns back all of the light that is casting on it, you are turning back God’s gaze fully.  Yet, the mirror grows warm.  It keeps some of the heat where it is.  Let yourself grow warm with God’s love.

13.  As this heat increases, consider those you love the most.  And breathe out your love on them.

14.  Continuing to breathe deeply, widen the circle of those you are breathing out love on.  Include casual friends.

15.  Inhaling, and exhaling, reciving God’s love, you can know breathe your love on the whole of the human race.

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Day 9 of the Solstice and Advent Campaign

Here is the audio track for today’s practice:

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

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  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, to join our next email campaign, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
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Exercise 38: The Countdown

This simple mindfulness exercise is a powerful way to reign in anxiety.  It might be used as a precursor to another spiritual exercise, or as a way of handling racing thoughts.

Exercise:

  1.  Breathe deeply.  Place your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Identify and name to yourself 5 things you can see.
  3. Take a cleansing breath.
  4. Identify and name 4 things you can hear.
  5. Take a cleansing breath.
  6. Identify and name 3 things you can feel.  (textures, pressures etc; not emotions.)
  7. Take a cleansing breath.
  8.  Identify and name 2 things you can smell.
  9. Take a cleansing breath.
  10. Identify and name 1 thing you taste.

As you go about your day, recall that your senses have no worries about the future and no concerns with the past.  Do this exercise, in whole or in part, whenever you are needing to be rooted in the now.

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

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  1. afe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change this feeling.’  or ‘I let go of my ___________’  or ‘God, I give you my _____________’
  6. Progress on to the next emotion, repeating steps 4 and 5.
  7. When you have worked through these emotions, spend a moment doing a mental inventory, assessing whether you feel differently.

36 B

  1. Create a safe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. Breathe once.
  6. Say, or think “I let go of my desire for security and survival.’
  7. Breathe again.
  8. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.’
  9. Breathe again.
  10. Say, or think ‘I let go of my desire for power and control.’
  11. Breathe.
  12. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change the situation.’
  13. If you wish, you can repeat this process for a second, troubling emotion.

 

Contemplation and Pseudo-Contemplation

There are so many things competing for our attention.

The makers of our devices are engaged in a kind-of arms race.  Instead of creating weapons of destruction, instead of having a goal of militaristic conquest, they are creating weapons of distraction.  The goal is not conquest, it is mindlessness.  But it is still an arms race.

They are very good at what they do.  And the goods and services they provide are not bad things in moderation.

But make no mistake: endlessly scrolling through a facebook feed only feels like meditation.

(And please, feel no judgement or shame here!  I am writing as much to myself as I am to you, dear reader!  These struggles are real!)

Further, meditating but being willing to be distracted…  Engaging in a spiritual exercise while having my facebook page open, so that I can take a little break if I get that endorphin-producing ‘ping’….  that is not really meditation.  That is wasting time while I am hoping that something interesting is going to happen on my social media feeds.

Part of the growth promised by these spiritual exercises is in facing down boredom.  More than just filling my time, the important thing is that I stop running from my fears about myself and the world.  This is why it is so valuable to commit to a length of time each day.  So much good will result when I don’t offer myself easy retreats out of this sometimes difficult work.

Let’s make a deal with each other, and with outselves.  Let’s agree that we might choose to engage in distractions: music to fill up the air, games as candy for our eyes, social media as a venue for our monkey mind to do a little dance.  But let’s be honest about it.  If we are going to do it, let’s make the conscious decision to do these things.  They are o.k. in moderation.  But let’s not pretend that we are meditating while really we are just looking for an excuse to engage those activities.

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, to join our next email campaign, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
  • Access exclusive content and help The Faithing Project share spiritual practices with a world in desperate need.  Become a  Patron.
  • follow @faithingproject on twitter.

 

Exercise 37: An Apaphatic Prayer Around the Trinity

Background: Apaphatic prayer is a way to work on the nondualistic mind.  It is done by first affirming a statement about God…  For example, “God is love.”  Next we negate this statement: “God is not love.”  Then we negate the negation: “God is not not-love.”

The trinity is a particularly powerful idea for Christians to apahatically meditate over.  This is because the portions of the trinity is true…  And also contradictory.  This first version of a trinity-focused apaphatic meditation will be repetitive and simple.

37A: Simple Trinity-Based Apaphatic Prayer

  1.  Find your center.
  2. Take a cleansing breath.
  3. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is father.”
  4. Exhale.  Say or think, “God is not father.”
  5. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-father.”
  6. Take a cleansing breath.
  7. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  8. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  9. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  10. Take a cleansing breath. 
  11. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is spirit.”
  12. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”
  13. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is not not-spirit.”
  14. Take a cleansing breath.
  15. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is father.”
  16. Exhale.  Say or think, “God is not father.”
  17. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-father.”
  18. Take a cleansing breath.
  19. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  20. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  21. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  22. Take a cleansing breath. 
  23. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is spirit.”
  24. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”
  25. Take a cleansing breath.
  26. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is father.”
  27. Exhale.  Say or think, “God is not father.”
  28. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-father.”
  29. Take a cleansing breath.
  30. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  31. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  32. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  33. Take a cleansing breath. 
  34. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is spirit.”
  35. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”

 

Background: The following exercise, begins, like 37A, with considering the 3 person of the trinity, but then moves on to consider the other contradictory implications of the doctrine.

Exercise 37B

  1.  Find your center.
  2. Take a cleansing breath.
  3. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is father.”
  4. Exhale.  Say or think, “God is not father.”
  5. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-father.”
  6. Take a cleansing breath.
  7. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  8. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  9. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  10. Take a cleansing breath. 
  11. Inhale.  Say or think, “God is spirit.”
  12. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”
  13. Take a cleansing breath.
  14. Inhale.  Say or think “God is one.”
  15. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not one.”
  16. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-one.”
  17. Take a cleansing breath.
  18. Inhale.  Say or think “God is father.”
  19. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not father.”
  20. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not father.”
  21. Take a cleansing breath.
  22. Inhale.  Say or think “God is three.”
  23. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not three.”
  24. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-three.”
  25. Take a cleansing breath.
  26. Inhale.  Say or think “God is son.”
  27. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not son.”
  28. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-son.”
  29. Take a cleansing breath.
  30. Inhale.  Say or think “God is three-in-one.”
  31. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not three-in-one.”
  32. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not-three-in-one.”
  33. Take a cleansing breath.
  34. Inhale.  Say or think “God is spirit.”
  35. Exhale.  Say or think “God is not spirit.”
  36. Inhale.  Say or think “God is not not spirit.”

 

Exercise 36: A Welcoming Prayer

Background: This prayer become popular in the centering prayer movement.  It was originally written by Mary Mrozowski.  It is a method of recognizing, then releasing difficult emotions.

Proponents of this prayer state that the focus should be on our feelings about life circumstances, rather than the exercise itself.

36 A

The Exercise:

  1.  Create a safe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change this feeling.’  or ‘I let go of my ___________’  or ‘God, I give you my _____________’
  6. Progress on to the next emotion, repeating steps 4 and 5.
  7. When you have worked through these emotions, spend a moment doing a mental inventory, assessing whether you feel differently.

36 B

  1. Create a safe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. Breathe once.
  6. Say, or think “I let go of my desire for security and survival.’
  7. Breathe again.
  8. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.’
  9. Breathe again.
  10. Say, or think ‘I let go of my desire for power and control.’
  11. Breathe.
  12. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change the situation.’
  13. If you wish, you can repeat this process for a second, troubling emotion.

If you would rather engage the welcoming prayer as an audiofile, consider this:

 

Exercise 35 Loving-Kindness

Background:  There is a Buddhist tradition of a loving-kindness meditation.  The exercises below are two versions recently practiced in The Faith-ing Project’s Thanksgiving Campaign.  The first more closely aligns with the Buddhist tradition.  The second reworks some of the Buddhist Concepts with a Christian, Gallic framework.

Exercise 35A: Buddhist Loving-Kindness Meditation
1.  Create a calm, and quiet space; turn off your phone and do your best to assure yourself of uninterupted time.
2. For the duration of this exercise, give yourself permission to be free of the duties and obligations that you normally submit yourself to.
3.  For a minute or two, simply breathe: in through the nose, and out through the mouth,
4.  Think of a person you feel gratitude for.  (Choose, more or less randomly, a single person to focus on.  Don’t worry, you will have an opportunity to focus on others shortly.)
5. Inhale and  bring their appearance to your mind.  Try and hear their voice, and even smell their unique smell.  Feel, as best you can, their presence.  Exhale.
6.  For the duration of a breath, allow yourself to experience whatever feelings this person stirs within you at this moment.
7. With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May you be free from suffering.’
8. Exhale.
9.  With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May you be healthy.’
10. Exhale.
11.  With your next inhale, think ‘May you be happy.’
12.  Exhale.
13.  With your next inhale, think ‘May you find peace and joy.’
14. Exhale.
15.  For the next breath, rejoice in the thought that your friend would be experiencing all these.
16.  If there is more time you had set aside for your spiritual practice, you might move on to another person you feel grateful for.  If you are having trouble choosing, consider these questions:
Who are you grateful for in your home?  Who are you grateful for in your school or workplace?  Who are you thankful for in your social circles?  Who are you thankful for from your past?  Who are you thankful for in your present?  Are there people who took on a role of parent, sibling, boss, coworker, lover, friend, coach, leader, follower that you are thankful for?  People who shaped you personally, professionally, or spiritually?
Whoever you choose, the phrases to focus on are these:
May you be free from suffering.
May you be healthy.
May you be happy.
May you find peace and joy.
17.  When you are ready to conclude today’s practice, take a single, cleansing breath.
18.  Now, with your inhale, think this for yourself: May I be free from suffering.
19.  Exhale.
20.  With your inhale: May I be healthy.
21.  Exhale.
22.  With your inhale: May I be happy.
23.  Exhale.
24.  Inhale, think: May I find peace and joy.

Exercise 35B: A Gallic-Christian Practice.
1.  Create a calm, and quiet space; turn off your phone and do your best to assure yourself of uninterupted time.
2. For the duration of this exercise, give yourself permission to be free of the duties and obligations that you normally submit yourself to.
3.  For a minute or two, simply breathe: in through the nose, and out through the mouth,
4.  Think of a person you feel gratitude for.  (Choose, more or less randomly, a single person to focus on.  Don’t worry, you will have an opportunity to focus on others shortly.)
5. Inhale and  bring their appearance to your mind.  Try and hear their voice, and even smell their unique smell.  Feel, as best you can, their presence.  Exhale.
6.  For the duration of a breath, allow yourself to experience whatever feelings this person stirs within you at this moment.
7. With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May the road rise up to meat you.’
8. Exhale.
9.  With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May the wind be always at your back.’
10. Exhale.
11.  With your next inhale, think ‘May the sun shine warm on your face.’
12.  Exhale.
13.  With your next inhale, think ‘May the rains fall softly on your fields’
14. Exhale.
15.  With the next inhale, think ‘May God hold you in the palm of his hand.’
15.  For the next breath, rejoice in the thought that your friend would be experiencing all these.
16.  If there is more time you had set aside for your spiritual practice, you might move on to another person you feel grateful for.  If you are having trouble choosing, consider these questions:
Who are you grateful for in your home?  Who are you grateful for in your school or workplace?  Who are you thankful for in your social circles?  Who are you thankful for from your past?  Who are you thankful for in your present?  Are there people who took on a role of parent, sibling, boss, coworker, lover, friend, coach, leader, follower that you are thankful for?  People who shaped you personally, professionally, or spiritually?
Whoever you choose, the phrases to focus on are these:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

17.  When you are ready to conclude today’s practice, take a single, cleansing breath.
18.  Now, with your inhale, think this for yourself: May the roads rise up to meet me..
19.  Exhale.
20.  With your inhale: May the winds always be at my back.
21.  Exhale.
22.  With your inhale: May the sun shine warm upon my face.
23.  Exhale.
24.  Inhale, think: May the rains fall soft upon my fields.
25.  Exhale.
26 Inhale, think, ‘May God hold me in the palm of his hand.’

Exercise 34: The Examen with multiple questions

Background:  St Ignatius pioneered The Examen in the 1500’s.  This is a method of reflecting on the day, and considering where we find our consolations (places it easy to see God’s work) and desolations (places where it is more difficult to see God at work.)

One of my favorite things about this practice is the ways that it helps me to put my life in perspective.  Sometimes, I am feeling quite stressed out.  My sense is that there are many things that are weighing me down.  What I discover is that I have many more consolations than desolations; I have much more to be thankful about than I do to worry about.  Sometimes, this process even helps me to recognize that the things I initially thought were desolations are actually consolations:  When my initial instinct is to think God isn’t there at all, I actually find God waiting there for me to catch up and find he was waiting there all along!

Today’s Exercise:
1. Take a dew deep breaths: in through the nose, out through the mouth.  Try and fill the lungs thoroughly on the inhale.  Try and empty them completely on the exhale.
2.  When you have released your ordinary concerns, turn your mind back toward the last 24 hours.  Think first about what came most recently.  Relive these experiences.  Try and engage your sense memory, and think about the sights and sounds and tastes and smells.  Bring your memory further back.  Don’t rush through considering all the details, until you find yourself wherever you were at this time, 24 hours ago.
3.  Consider your desolations by exploring these questions about this time period you just brought back to your mind.  Take your time as you explore each of them:

  • When were you least able to give and receive love?
  • Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so difficult.
  • Relive the feelings without trying to change or fix it in any way.
  • Take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are.

4.  Now, consider your consolations by considering these questions:

  • If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?
  • When were you most able to give and receive love today?
  • Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so good.
  • Breathe in the gratitude you felt and receive life again from that moment.

5.  At the bare minimum, try and hold your gratitude for the consolation.  Consider, if you can, the desolation.  Is there any way that made the positive part better?  Is there any sort of gratitude you can find for even the difficult events…  perhaps for the growth they make possible in you?  Perhaps that you had the resources to withstand this difficult time?  If this feeling is not there, don’t force it or shame yourself; as a human being, this is simply where we are sometimes.